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  1. #1
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    Reworking Surly Cross-Check: touring and commuting

    Hey All!
    Been reading a ton for a long time and happy to be posting. I am looking for some help re-building my surly cross-check. I picked the frame for its versatility and built it up in a fashion that i'm no longer happy with (didn't know much about building up a bike, took parts off of a racing road bike). It basically looks something like this : it has a mountain bike crank set with very small chainrings, shimano ultegra front and back derailleurs, Alex wheels with shimano ultegra hubs, a nine-speed cassette in the back, shimano bar-end shifters, shimano brakes, cane creek headest, drop bars, road tires.

    I really like looking at pictures of how people built theirs up and have been reading a ton but having trouble finding actual component lists. So here is what I want the bike for and what I don't like about it currently:

    Purpose: I use the bike mostly for commuting but I also want it to be able to handle touring (will be going on a few smaller and one possibly longer tour this summer). To this end I am looking for something that balances between sturdiness but I still have the option of riding around town quickly or even possibly taking on the trails (it is a cross bike right?). So its more or less that order - I rarely ride trails, I don't have an agressive biking style, I value durability over weight and speed, and I am increasingly valuing comfort.

    What I don't like/need help with: the mountain bike crank is terrible - I regularly ride up a big hill, don't need the smallest gear on that crank, and then on my way down i basically have to coast. What do people recommend for a crank?

    I am slightly confused about having 9speeds right now - I am not too stoked on having to buy a 9 speed chain, and I would prefer something more durable and easier to work with - should I replace the cassette? With what?

    Tires: I live in Santa Cruz, ca and you wouldn't think, but our roads really suck. I have been riding with road tires and constantly replacing punctures or hitting a pothole when i don't pay attention for one second and blowing out (plus i want a pair of tires I don't really have to replace in the winter). I am willing to invest in a set of decent tires at this point and am thinking along the lines of higher-end cyclocross tires. One thing I really enjoy about road is how much faster I can go and how much easier it feels to pedal. Is there a marriage of the two? Nubby tires that I can inflate to a high psi or lower the psi if I want to trail ride? Are there ones that are preferred for durability and touring?

    Wheels: They are 700 Alex wheels (not sure what model unfortunately) with ultegra hubs - does these seem appropriate for what i'm doing or are they more road/racey specific wheels? ( I guess I may have to figure out what model they are if I want a good answer to that).

    Derailleurs: are there derailleurs that are more suited to my needs? I feel like the shimano ultegra are more road/race bikey, but I don't really have that great of a sense of what a more "commute/tour" derailleur is.

    Bar End shifters: I routed the bar-end shifters underneath the bar tape on my drop bars and have the back indexed and the front on friction- the front one is really difficult to shift up. Is this because I routed it wrong? Should I not route the bar-end shifters underneath the tape? Or is it a derailleur issue? Or potentially both?

    So right now I feel like my bike is a bit of a frankenstein and I would like to smooth all these things out so that it looks a bit nicer (sexy like some of the folks' cross-checks in here) and also so that it runs smooth and requires a bit less maintenance. Sorry the post was so long, hope to get some responses! Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I wouldn't worry about spinning out going downhill. It happens to everyone -- haven't you seen the TdF racers coasting downhill? They only pedal coming out of a sharp turn.

    You might be able to go with a 7- or 8-speed cassette, but that would require to change the shifters. Those components aren't going to be available as much as 9-speed in the years to come. I'd stick with what you have.

    Tires, well, when you find a model you like they'll stop making them. If you go with something in the 32-35 range, you'll be able to ride reasonable trails, and ride reasonably fast.

    Honestly, the first thing I'd recommend is a spray can of Pledge. Shine that baby up, wipe it down, clean off the gunk on the chain, wheels, and especially spokes, and it will start to look better. If that doesn't work, see if somebody will paint Betty Grable on the top tube -- or maybe JLo.

  3. #3
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    What I don't like/need help with: the mountain bike crank is terrible - I regularly ride up a big hill, don't need the smallest gear on that crank, and then on my way down i basically have to coast. What do people recommend for a crank?
    You can simply replace the crank or possibly get some larger rings on your existing crank. I would start with your LBS as they can discuss the options with you in person. I don't pedal downhill after 40kph. Due to air resistance the amount your speed increases every time you double your power to the cranks diminishes really fast to the point where you are creating more resistance pedalling than just getting into a tuck and bombing down the hill.

    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    I am slightly confused about having 9speeds right now - I am not too stoked on having to buy a 9 speed chain, and I would prefer something more durable and easier to work with - should I replace the cassette? With what?
    Unless you want friction shifting going from 9spd to 8 spd would require the change of the right shifter as well as the cassette and chain. Personally I don't see the point. 9 speed isn't remarkably better or worse than 8 speed for durability. 8 speed is cheaper, but that only makes sense when you aren't replacing an existing drivetrain.

    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    Tires: I live in Santa Cruz, ca and you wouldn't think, but our roads really suck. I have been riding with road tires and constantly replacing punctures or hitting a pothole when i don't pay attention for one second and blowing out (plus i want a pair of tires I don't really have to replace in the winter). I am willing to invest in a set of decent tires at this point and am thinking along the lines of higher-end cyclocross tires. One thing I really enjoy about road is how much faster I can go and how much easier it feels to pedal. Is there a marriage of the two? Nubby tires that I can inflate to a high psi or lower the psi if I want to trail ride? Are there ones that are preferred for durability and touring?
    If you are running 23mm rubber get yourself some supple wide tires for speed and the ability to ride over potholes without drama. Grand Bois Cypres 700c x 32mm are nice. Riding further to the left out of the debris on the road will reduce your flats dramatically if you aren't paying attention to where you are riding currently.


    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    Wheels: They are 700 Alex wheels (not sure what model unfortunately) with ultegra hubs - does these seem appropriate for what i'm doing or are they more road/racey specific wheels? ( I guess I may have to figure out what model they are if I want a good answer to that).
    If you haven't had any problems then they are probably fine for what you are doing. When in doubt take them to a good mechanic and ask him/her to check the spoke tension for you.


    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    Derailleurs: are there derailleurs that are more suited to my needs? I feel like the shimano ultegra are more road/race bikey, but I don't really have that great of a sense of what a more "commute/tour" derailleur is.
    Assuming your bike shifts fine than your current derailleur meets your needs. The major reason to switch between a mtn vs. road derailleur is using a mtn vs. road cassette. You said earlier in your post you didn't need the crazy low gears on your CC so you aren't headed towards a wide range cassette. If your existing rear shift setup works just keep riding it.


    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    Bar End shifters: I routed the bar-end shifters underneath the bar tape on my drop bars and have the back indexed and the front on friction- the front one is really difficult to shift up. Is this because I routed it wrong? Should I not route the bar-end shifters underneath the tape? Or is it a derailleur issue? Or potentially both?
    I have the same under the tape setup on one bike and it works fine. If your shifting is hard there could be a number of problems. I would take the bike to your LBS and ask them to look at it. They'll be able to tell pretty quickly if the issue is your cabling or maybe how your front derailleur is positioned/setup relative to the crank you are using.


    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    So right now I feel like my bike is a bit of a frankenstein and I would like to smooth all these things out so that it looks a bit nicer (sexy like some of the folks' cross-checks in here) and also so that it runs smooth and requires a bit less maintenance. Sorry the post was so long, hope to get some responses! Thanks!
    Nobody can tell you what sexy looks like for your bike. If you want to rebuild for a specific "look" than find a bike you like and either ask the owner for a parts list or take the photo to your LBS and ask them to help make your bike sexy.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by santacruising22 View Post
    took parts off of a racing road bike)
    it has a mountain bike crank set with very small chainrings , road tires.


    Purpose: I use the bike mostly for commuting but I also want it to be able to handle touring

    I value durability over weight and speed, and I am increasingly valuing comfort.

    I regularly ride up a big hill, don't need the smallest gear on that crank, and then on my way down i basically have to coast. What do people recommend for a crank?


    Tires: I live in Santa Cruz, ca and you wouldn't think, but our roads really suck. I have been riding with road tires and constantly replacing punctures or hitting a pothole when i don't pay attention for one second and blowing out (plus i want a pair of tires I don't really have to replace in the winter). I am willing to invest in a set of decent tires at this point and am thinking along the lines of higher-end cyclocross tires. One thing I really enjoy about road is how much faster I can go and how much easier it feels to pedal.

    Wheels: They are 700 Alex wheels (not sure what model unfortunately) with ultegra hubs - does these seem appropriate for what i'm doing or are they more road/racey specific wheels? ( I guess I may have to figure out what model they are if I want a good answer to that).

    Derailleurs: are there derailleurs that are more suited to my needs? I feel like the shimano ultegra are more road/race bikey, but I don't really have that great of a sense of what a more "commute/tour" derailleur is.

    Bar End shifters: I routed the bar-end shifters underneath the bar tape on my drop bars and have the back indexed and the front on friction- the front one is really difficult to shift up. Is this because I routed it wrong? Should I not route the bar-end shifters underneath the tape? Or is it a derailleur issue? Or potentially both?

    So right now I feel like my bike is a bit of a frankenstein and I would like to smooth all these things out so that it looks a bit nicer (sexy like some of the folks' cross-checks in here) and also so that it runs smooth and requires a bit less maintenance. Sorry the post was so long, hope to get some responses! Thanks!
    last to first:
    "runs smoothly and requires a bit less maintenance" The only issue you've raised regarding maintenance is more flat resistance and dificulty avoiding potholes. You don't specify the size of "road tires" you're using but if comfort is an issue simply putting on bigger tires solves that along with MAINTAINING TIRE PRESSURE. If you're riding high pressure road tires and become lax on tire pressure you can get pinch flats from low pressure when hitting pot holes.

    "difficult to shift up"- dificult to shift from middle to big chainring?

    Your derailleurs may be fine, determine gear range first then determine if you need to change deraileurs.

    Wheels- yes you need to be more specific. Just like there's a difference between a 125lb rider or a 225lb rider there's a difference between putting the 125lb rider and 30lbs of gear on 32 spoke road rims or putting the 225lb rider and 50lbs on 32 spoke road rims. Simply talking about wheels by the manufacturers name doesn't say anything about whether it's appropriate for the load you intend to put on them. So how much do you weigh, how much do you intend on carrying and how often will you ride unloaded commutting and loaded touring? You can have two sets of wheels, two sets of tires or one set of wheels and tires but it helps to start with specifics of your use.

    Cyclocross tires are not touring tires nor are they necessarily puncture resistant. CycloCross is a kind of racing. Your use doesn't describe racing but there are a lot of tires that can meet your needs. Provide some specifics like what size of tire you are using now and what pressure range you keep them at. You won't "invest" in a decent set of tires, you'll spend money for them and they won't prevent pinch flats if the pressure is low and you hit potholes. Be willing to sacrifice some speed for comfort.

    Just because you don't use the inner ring riding unloaded doesn't mean you won't need it loaded but if you want a double instead of a triple that's doable for touring. Coasting downhill is normal. If you want to feel resistance while going over 25mph going downhill learn to pedal faster. Being able to pedal uphill at 10mph instead of 8mph will make more difference than being able to pedal downhill at 80 rpm instead of 90rpm.

    Durability over weight and speed with comfort taking more priority- what tires size are you using now? Going bigger is a simple solution for comfort if existing tires are small and high pressure, what tires are you using?

  5. #5
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I don't think you need to do too much to a stock CC to make it useful both for tours and commuting. It's kind of a nice thing about that bike.

    The crank on the stock Cross Check is very versatile. It can be set up as a double, compact double or triple (with a longer BB spindle). It should be fairly easy to increase the size of the chainrings, though I recommend you set it up as a triple. If you're touring with enough gear you may wind up wanting that granny gear after all.

    For tires, in theory the stock Alex rims won't handle anything skinnier than a 700 x 28c. So you could use a 28c slick as your road tire, and something wider and knobbier for trails. If you really want to burn up some dough, you could set up the slicks on the stock Alex wheels, and build/order a set of very robust wheels with wider tires for touring and trails.

    9sp is fine, I don't see any benefit to switching to 8sp.

  6. #6
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    Since you want it to look nicer, post a picture so we can check it out!

    If it's not working well - shifting - go see the Spokesman. If you're getting a lot of flats going over pot holes, check your tire pressure (every ride!), and um... sorry to say it, but pay attention and don't ride over that stuff. That's going to take it's toll on any wheel.

    If you don't want to buy a 9 speed chain, think about how many 9 speed chains you could buy for the cost of doing all the changes you are talking about. Chains and tires are wear parts, you should be prepared to replace them as they wear out, and keep up on timely chain replacements so it doesn't take the rest of the drivetrain with it as it wears out.

    Ultegra is great. No reason to change it unless the rear derailleur doesn't take up enough chain for a wide gear range. Anything you replace it with will be a downgrade.

    Gearing - go ride up Mountain Charlie, Alba and Jamison and then decide if you need that granny gear. If not, go to a bike shop (The Spokesman is great, they built my bike!), and see if you can get a different crank that's compatible w/ the bottom bracket & derailleur you have - that way when you go loaded touring you can switch back to your original crank.
    ...

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